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Wrongful death suit filed after Rikers' death

The culmination of a lengthy investigation over a period of months resulted in a recent raid on Rikers Island by authorities for New York City. According to officials, guards entering and exiting the facility were searched for weapons, drugs and other contraband.

The Department of Correction and Department of Investigation for the city indicated in a statement that the focus of the raid was the George Motchan Detention Center, home to 2,000 of Rikers' average population of 12,000. Cells were searched as well as inmates, although what was discovered in the raid has not been publicly announced. Information that was gleaned during an investigation into illegal activity and violence at the facility prompted the raid.

Rikers has been under the gun after a string of mishaps and disciplinary problems. Recently, the mother of a 56-year-old schizophrenic former Marine filed a wrongful death lawsuit for $25 million against the city. An attorney representing the family alleged that the man sweltered to death in his cell while being held for trespassing.

A 25-year-old mentally ill man being held on a robbery charge died in March after drinking a corrosive disinfectant. He was reportedly deprived of medical aid by one of the jail's senior guards, who was subsequently arrested on a federal charge after the incident.

A couple of New York City correction officers were arrested last year for allegedly smuggling drugs into the jail's maximum security wing. Since the start of the investigation, over a dozen corrections officers have been busted, and officials expect more arrests to follow.

When the prisons are rife with corruption from guards, there can be no safe environment for an inmate simply to do his time or wait for his day in court. Being charged with or convicted of a crime does not strip one of the basic human rights. When the supposed "good guys" get corrupted, the state or federal civil court system may be an inmate or his family's only recourse for justice.

Source: Reuters, "New York authorities raid Rikers Island jail in crackdown" Victoria Cavaliere, Jun. 24, 2014

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